Dapitan : The Shrine City
Built on the irregular coastlines of Zamboanga del Norte is the historic city of Dapitan. Synonymous to its name is Jose Rizal who spent four years of exile from 1892-1896. Daquepitan as it was originally called was inhabited by the Subanen, a nomadic group of people who thrive by the riverbanks or suba. From pre-Hispanic era in the time of its founder Datu Pagbuaya, to the arrival of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi & the Augustinian friars in 1595, until the Japanese occupation, Dapitan was a hub of divergent cultures.
Walking along its city-center is like being in a time warp. It still keeps the characteristic of 18thcentury layout of pueblos where the iglesia, municipio, escuela, & principalia mansions surround the plaza. The 1871 Cathedral of St. James the Greater is a proud legacy of the Jesuit mission that came into Dapitan & surviving on its side is the Parochial School, which was under the Order’s care until 1635. The current day City Hall used to be the municipio in the 1890s & across it is the marker of Casa Real, where the house of Ricardo Carcinero, the politico-military commandancia once stood. Centennial acacia trees that outline the plaza are still firmly rooted providing shade to an afternoon game of dama. Stretching outwards are the preserved heritage houses with huge Capiz shell windows, ventanillas & ornately designed transoms.
Seemingly, no other city celebrates the life & works of Rizal much more than the Dapitanons do. Every December, the Handuraw Festival commemorates his heroic contributions to this City. A sculpture of his arrival in July 17, 1892 is marked along the sunset boulevard in Sta Cruz and stands as an imposing reminder that the national hero once lived there. Outside the walls of Fort Santiago, The Rizal Shrine in Dapitan is the most visited, thus earning them the recognition as the Shrine City of the Philippines. Inside this 15-hectare preserved memorial are the replicas of his house, the Casa Redonda (octagonal clinic) and Casa Cuadrada (dormitory & classroom). Perhaps the most attractive portion of the Shrine is the Love Rock where Rizal & Josephine Bracken, his dulce estranjera stood & professed their love to each other after being denied of a marriage in the church. The Rizaliana Museum also showcases various memorabilia of how he spent his life taking care of the sick, teaching the young boys & building the community through his inventions.
Another good reason to visit Dapitan is Dakak Park Beach Resort nestled in the cove of Taguilon. Hemmed in by its 750-meter velvety white sand & turquoise water glistening under the Zanorte sun, Dakak is ultimate beach revelry. It offers a natural spa experience gazing at the maddening sunset in an outdoor jacuzzi while the scent of frangipani & other local blooms permeate the air.
But Dapitan is not all about tranquility, history & unforgettable seafood treats. The other wild side of it is Gloria de Dapitan, the first & only amusement park in Visayas & Mindanao. Fasten your seatbelt tight & unleash those decibel-breaking screams in Fantasyland’s fun rides! Its urban zoning is a great example of how modern conveniences can blend well with the old without losing its beautiful heritage structures.
Every July, Dapitanons celebrate their religiosity & the colors of their cultural diversity through the Kinabayo Festival. In honor of their patron saint, people go out to the streets in parade of colors & pageantry as they shout Viva Sr. Santiago!
Over time, this quaint little town has finally earned its spot on the national tourism circuit not only as a historical & cultural destination but also for its ecological attractions.
There is so much to celebrate in Dapitan.
HOW TO GET THERE
- The nearest airport to Dapitan is in Dipolog City. Airphil Express (www.airphilexpress.com) and Cebu Pacific Airlines (www.cebpacific.com) have daily flights to Dipolog.
- From the airport, V-Hires and public jeepneys are already available to bring you to Dapitan. This trip is approximately 11 kilometers.
- Around Dapitan City, the major means of transportation is tricycle. This should bring you around at about less than P10. Depending on the route and the sights you want to see, tricycle drivers in Dapitan can be negotiated for the fare.
WHERE TO STAY
- Dapitan City Resort Hotel (+63652135415)
- Bajamunde Pension (+63652136564)
- For a more convenient Dapitan itinerary, it is recommended to stay in Dakak Park & Beach Resort (+63652136813). Arrange with the resort for airport pick-up. Dakak is far from the city center but they have shuttle service to bring you around the city.
- Arrive early in Dapitan. Check-in straight in Dakak, enjoy the beach and have candle-lit dinner by the sea. After dinner, request for a shuttle to bring you to Gloria de Dapitan.
- The next day, go around the city for a cultural & historical tour of the Rizal Shrine, the century-old houses and the Cathedral. Seafood lunch is best across the Provincial Building.
- Must buy: Spanish Sardines in Dipolog City.
- Ferries also sail to Dapitan from Dumaguete and Cebu. Check www.schedule.ph for tariff, schedule and routes.
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